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N.H. Odd Couples: Kelly Ayotte and Patty Murray

This year, the U.S. Senate has taken up legislation to prevent sexual assault in our military. With a historic 20 women serving in the Senate, it’s no accident that this crisis is getting the serious attention it deserves.

From the outset of this important debate, I’ve worked across party lines to find solutions that will protect victims and hold military commanders accountable.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and I represent states that are on opposite sides of the country. And we’re frequently on opposite sides of many issues.

But when the debate on preventing military sexual assault got underway, Murray and I joined together to author legislation that, among other important initiatives, provides sexual assault victims in the military with a special victims’ counsel – a trained military lawyer who will provide individual assistance to victims.

This historic reform was adopted by the Senate Armed Services Committee in its version of the annual defense bill, and the Defense Department is already beginning to implement the special victims’ counsel program.

I’ve also worked with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri to address military sexual assault. While we come from different parties, we both previously worked as prosecutors. We’ve used that experience to write legislation that provides additional protections for victims – including a provision that empowers the civilian service secretary to review cases that commanders choose to not pursue.

Military sexual assault provides just one example of how both parties can work together to help solve serious problems. With divided government in Washington, Republicans and Democrats must work together on the tough challenges our country faces. The people of New Hampshire expect nothing less.

(U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a Republican from New Hampshire.)

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